E. coli cluster points to Panera Bread

Posted on April 6, 2018 by


New details point to Panera Bread as a possible culprit in a string of recent E. coli cases reported in four New Jersey counties, according to a report.

Panera Bread has not returned Patch’s multiple requests for comment since Wednesday.

A total of eight cases have been reported including four in Hunterdon County, two in Somerset County, one in Warren County and one in Middlesex County.

The NJ Department of Health first learned last week of two cases from a hospital. However, most of the illnesses occurred toward the end of March, according to DOH spokeswoman Donna Leusner.

The Warren County Health Department and state Health Department are investigating a cluster of E. coli cases potentially from “local Panera Breads,” Sarah Perramant, public health epidemiologist in Warren Count.

Specifically, Perramant told nj.com that the Phillipsburg-based Panera Bread was the one primarily being investigated.

The report comes after the state Department of Health confirmed to Patch that it’s investigating at least six E. coli cases in recent weeks that might be associated with a restaurant chain in at least four New Jersey counties — Somerset, Hunterdon, Warren and Middlesex. Somerset County referred comment to the state.

The Hunterdon County Division of Health confirmed that it’s investigating a cluster of E. coli cases in cooperation with the New Jersey Department of Health, but the county did not name Panera. “Our office received notification of cases from laboratory results and health care providers on 3/28/18,” according to a statement from the county.

“The current investigation is ongoing, and there is not a definite link to one food establishment,” the statement said. “The Hunterdon County Division of Health continues to investigate the current cluster of illness with New Jersey Department of Health to identify the source of illness and protect the health of our residents.”

Leusner said the investigation is still in the preliminary stages and the department will submit its research to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for confirmation. The process could take longer than a week.

Despite Warren County’s admission, the state DOH still would not confirm the restaurant chain in question on Friday because Leusner said they can’t yet fully establish an indisputable connection between the cases and the company. She would only say the cases “might” be associated with a chain.

“It is still very early on in the investigation and it can be very difficult to determine where someone got sick, or pinpoint the source,” Leusner told Patch.

As part of the state’s investigation, the DOH will trace back the food product and conduct lab testing. The department will also interview the patients and talk to any restaurants with a possible connection.

“Since several counties are involved, they could’ve gotten sick at home or another restaurant,” Leusner said. “The source or food product cannot be determined until state lab tests are done to tell if they match the various cases of illness and confirm testing with the CDC.”

A spokeswoman with Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Somerset in Somerville referred questions about the E. coli cases to the state health department.

source: https://patch.com/new-jersey/bridgewater/panera-bread-possibly-linked-e-coli-outbreak-4-nj-counties

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